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Crowdfunding, One Year Later
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Crowdfunding, One Year Later

May 1, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 9 Next

DD: Star Citizen had a lot of really impressive visuals ready when the campaign launched. How do you decide what “done” is for your campaign? How do you decide when you have enough content to get people excited?

CR: I think it sort of depends on how you approach it. I looked at everything and I said, “I think I can raise some money from a nostalgia standpoint,” but I thought if we really wanted to hit it out of the park, we should treat it exactly the same way we would treat it if I was funded by EA or Microsoft: At some point, I would reveal it at E3, and then there would be a year of press hype, leading up to the release, and you’re basically doing that to get people excited and hyped. So I sort of viewed going into the crowdfunding campaign with the same level of attention and respect that I would if I was doing it from the traditional funding route.

That’s not normal for crowdfunding stuff. I spent a year on the prototype because I felt like I needed to do something that was pretty ambitious, and I needed to show everyone what it would look like and the feel of it. If you treat it more like you would if you were funded by a major publisher, my guess is you’ll do better on the crowdfunding front, because there’s something more tangible. When you see somebody sitting in front of a camera saying, “Hey, I really want to revolutionize this kind of game and change this,” there’s only so much you can take. If you’re a name, they’ll give you some credit if they’ve seen what you’ve done before and they’ve liked it, but nothing speaks louder than some really great imagery on the scene.

I think you’ll see that the sort of crowdfunded campaigns that are doing well, or will do well, are the ones that are able to show much more up front, show what you’re going to get as someone who’s backing it. I think you’ve gotta treat that really seriously. Last year, at the beginning of this whole craze, you could get away [with] nostalgia, but I think that’s a lot harder to do nowadays.

DD: You said you spent about a year on the game before launching. How much time did you spend on the PR campaign for Star Citizen?

CR: I started lining up the press and the whole campaign about three months before I made the formal announcement, maybe four months. I’ve done this before, with EA, and Microsoft, and Origin before that. I have an advantage because there’s a track record and I have my relationships, so I sort of knew the gig.

I did a press tour for a week before we did the announcement in Austin, where I went to Germany, I went to New York, I went to San Francisco, and I sat down with a bunch of key outlets and showed them my prototype and talked them through what I wanted to do because I just feel like that’s really important to get people excited.

The other thing that was important to me in the year before the campaign was to research how the game’s going to get built, and what the issues are -- how long it would take to build a spaceship or a player with X polys? I wanted to get a good gauge. If I’m promising something to the crowd, I want to really make sure that I’ve done my homework, because when you’re making promises you want to deliver on them.

It’s great when everybody gives you all this money, and when you don’t deliver on it, people will give you a little bit of leeway because they know making something good takes some time -- but you can’t screw up. I definitely think I’ve seen some crowdfunding where I look at the campaigns and I can tell that the people behind them are basically naive. They’ve got the best intentions, but they’ve never made anything that hard to make.

One of the biggest things of the preparation year was doing a lot of R&D on things that I’d need to know for the full production, and any issues we’d see, so once we raised the money we’d be in a production phase instead of an R&D phase. If you’re really going to take it seriously and do it well it’s a bunch of work to get it teed up and ready.

DD: How does having to answer to the crowd change development cycles in terms of deliverables and making sure you hit deadlines?

CR: I definitely feel that with the crowd, I’ve got more pressure to deliver, and if I’m not going to deliver on a date, I need to give them a really good reason, and explain it to them, and be up-front about it. With a publisher, you sort of have this relationship that you kinda know. If they’re into it, you know you’ll be able to say, “I need a few more months,” or, “I need some more money.” Typically, unless the publisher decides to just write you off, you’ll be able to do that to some degree.

I feel like you’ve got less give with the crowd. I don’t necessarily have an issue with that. It’s kind of invigorating, because it makes you focus. To give you an example, on the October 10th GDC Online reveal I did, if I didn’t have that date I’d have probably spent another two to three weeks polishing the prototype and the demo, because that’s just my nature. I want it to look as good as possible. But, I had that day so there was a certain point where I had to get it out there… That side is a little scary but it’s definitely motivating.

I do think that what the crowd does add to the development process is that they help you focus on what’s important in your game much earlier. Having 100,000-plus people who love this game so much they’re giving you money before the game is made gives you a really great focus group in terms of their hotspots, and the top five things they want to do in your game. Too often in a typical development cycle, you go off and work for two, three, four years, and you don’t really have that direct communication. 

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